Paris or London: Which is more beautiful?

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Paris is grand and breathtaking; London is ‘rude and low’, which is easy for us imported Northerners to say safe in the hills of Yorkshire. Actually it was John Dryden who said so, so there. I like the suggestion in Austen Saunders’ Spectator Book Blog that London’s messy layout and ramshackle streets is a result of constrained monarchs not lording the local planners. The logic then is Paris is the symbol of despotism that required Revolution; London therefore a symbol of quiet resistance. No Robespierre but just a Wilfred Grimsdale.

From London’s maze to British Railways post-war? Or Carlisle Airport’s aborted take-off or just about any Project Le Grande that smacks of centralism. Where the US citizenry pack a small basement arsenal against Big Government we employ the local official; who, at the point of contact, sends years of MBA-project-planning-precision into a paper storm. Tombs and Tombs’ The Sweet Enemy suggests the French despise such lack of vision. They also grind teeth at our parliament. Its maddening obsession with precedent. The future is dictated by ‘let’s check what we did last time’; like driving forward using only the rear-view mirror.

Tombs is English and the other Tombs is French; making their Tome on the 300-year-war a little more interesting. Tis intriguing how history reveals ‘us’. Russia went with Platonic Idealism; England with Socratic Argument… France goes with the classical and elegant. Shakespeare was rough and crude and not worth our time, they said. Our desire to disunite and slug it out then leaves our city streets organically arranged. More a collage of opinion and minor fracas between the Mr Grimsdales than sweeping Champ-Elysees. Like one of those paint pots swinging on a rope above the studio floor of the genius Tony Hart’s Vision On; leaving its random splodges.

Randomness then is its own beauty; grand vision is seen for what it is, contrived and a little bit over blown. Impressive but wounded by self-engrandising puffery that is likely to induce slight regret. France post-war drove its railways like coach and horses where we bobbed and weaved around badger sets as we consulted the tea-lady. We see planning-by-committee as our birthright. Management by consensus then has led to patchwork London streets; Rome’s straight lines weren’t sustainable. Because they were Roman I suppose. You couldn’t hide in alleyways in the Roman world as they’d been marbled over? Where in Britain our freedom means we lurk seditiously in corners, up twittens, down quashetts.

So, Paris is more beautiful then. But we’re more satisfied in our unmade beds.

  1. Can`t say I follow you train of thought but I reckon Paris is more welcoming and is grand by design and this is underpinned through the bohime feel I get from meeting the people who hang about there. Also, it looks better in the film `Ronin` than – say – London ever does in a Guy Richie movie. They make good films the French and they make Paris look good, everything about the London scene is too steeped in the Empire, dogma and resentment, its up it own a..e! The building in Paris are beroche(?), and architecturally they flow, in London they try to be – and it shows. Both were bomed in the war but Paris has dusted itself down gand rown from the ashes to set a european standard. Compared to London my county of Yorkshire shines out, as do the plasticine streets in Wallice & Grommit…

    • I like the cinematic angle Mark and the way you have developed the meaning to you; I love the atmosphere of both cities as backdrops to storylines also e.g. Patrick Hamilton’s novels, Hangover Square and Slaves of Solitude as well as Sartre’s Age of Reason.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: